Just a few days ago, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” won Best Picture in the Comedy or Musical category at the Golden Globes. Sure, the film, releasing to Blu-ray on Jan. 12, has plenty of humorous moments scattered throughout its 141-minute runtime. But labeling it a comedy is not entirely appropriate.
“The Martian” is a solid piece of entertainment that mostly takes place on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets stranded from his crew during a mission and is presumed dead. But, surprise, he’s actually still alive, and he’s living off of what little resources he has. Now NASA and his crew must find a way to bring him home.
Like Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” or Robert Zemeckis’ “Castaway,” Scott’s “The Martian” faced a tough challenge in telling a story that mostly involves just one man stranded in the middle of nowhere. What these films do so well is capture the one thing that comes with these stories – the feelings of absolute boredom, of being alone, and of wondering what’s going to happen next. The audience never feels bored when watching Mark talk into a camera, or try to grow potatoes, or desperately try to find some music to which he can listen that is not disco. And when the time comes for some intense situations, Scott delivers on that.
Scott is no stranger to the sci-fi world, bringing us great work such as “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” and “Prometheus.” With “The Martian,” he takes it to a different level. There are elements of fear, uncertainty, and surprise, but “The Martian” also comes with a great amount of humor from Damon’s character. Though he may not know how things will work out, he doesn’t go completely crazy thinking about the horrible outcomes that could come of his scenario. And Damon is superb in the role.
Scott’s cinematography in “The Martian” may occasionally echo the looks of “Alien” and “Prometheus,” but the film itself is nowhere near as gritty or terrifying as those two. This is more of a light-hearted, family-friendly affair – save for a few strong words that somehow slipped by the strict MPAA guidelines for a PG-13. But Scott does a nice job of capturing the atmosphere of a desolate planet, and the shots in space and on Earth look good as well.
Aside from Damon, “The Martian” is loaded with a talented cast of actors. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are just some of the actors whose Earth-bound characters try to bring Mark home while Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara are amongst the list of people who are still in space, unaware that their partner is still alive. All do exceptional work here.
Though it doesn’t quite have the emotional weight of “127 Hours” or “Castaway,” or even other space-set classics such as “Apollo 13” and “Gravity,” “The Martian” is still a lot of fun. It has the right blend of action and humor that makes it easily rewatchable.
“The Martian” Blu-ray comes with more than one hour worth of features. Some of them align with the movie’s tone in being humorous and satirical. There are also some standard ones including a gag reel, a look at the production art of the movie, and the film’s theatrical trailer. Below are the other features contained on the Blu-ray.
“Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction” gives us exclusive interviews with Scott and cast members about how the project came about. Also interviewed is Andy Weir, author of the “Martian” novel on which the movie is based.
“Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes” is another behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.
“Ares III: Refocused” is a mockumentary that explores what happened when Mark Watney was stranded on Mars and how he made his way home. It also gives an in-depth look at the process, and includes interviews with the characters portrayed by Bean, Ejiofor, and Daniels.
“Ares II: Farewell” mocks a live tour of the Hermes ship and gives viewers a look at the crew, while little facts pop up on the side and a live chat appears at the bottom.
“The Right Stuff” gives us a mock interview session with the crew. A prelude tells us that they were subjected to 10 days of isolation, and were then asked to reflect their feelings on the scenario.
“Ares: Our Greatest Adventure” is another mockumentary-style feature that has Neil deGrasse Tyson narrate and explain the science of how traveling to Mars is not exactly that easy.
“Leave Your Mark” is an advertisement featuring Mark Watney working out. While we see Mark in his workout session, a narrator explains how hard work can get you anywhere.
“Bring Him Home” is another advertisement done in the style of a campaign in which the world calls for Mark Watney to be brought home.
The Blu-ray of “The Martian” does come with plenty of special features, but it reaches a certain point to which the satire kind of wears down. The “Refocused” documentary is a blast to watch, as is the “Farewell” feature. But as one goes through the others that are done in the same style, its humor slowly diminishes – especially considering the fact that “The Martian” isn’t supposed to be a full-on comedy. “Leave Your Mark” and “Bring Him Home” are silly features that don’t really feel needed for the Blu-ray. But the behind-the-scenes features are nice, and the gag reel is good for a few laughs, too.
Special Features: B